John Chambers, the retired Cisco CEO, recently spoke to a group of startups and told them, “You want your competitors not to change.” Then he went on to emphasize, on the other hand, “You want to have the courage to change.” To say your business has recently experienced adverse conditions, in light of COVID-19, is probably a significant understatement.

There is a saying about the seven words most fatal to a business; ‘We have always done it that way.’ While, in many respects, no truer words were spoken, when it comes to creating an advantageous position for your business, it can be many times more difficult to change when your company is in a tough situation. Yet, as Chambers pointed out, in the world of business today, one thing is constant and that one thing is change, irrespective of the current conditions.

Chambers, who is part of the JC2 Ventures group he helped found after retiring from Cisco, said “You either disrupt or you get disrupted.” His observations encouraged businesses to take a different perspective when times are difficult. In fact, he went on to say “You don’t compete against competitors. I’ve seen five generations of technology and we’re about to see a sixth one with a cloud moving to the edge and the Internet of Things. You focus on the transition in the business model.” 

According to Bernardo Martinez, a Vice-President of PayPal, there are three ways a business can take an adverse situation and turn it into an opportunity.

Move Toward Opportunity

The worldwide pandemic has been a significant burden for most businesses, one way or the other. Martinez went on to make a great observation about COVID, as yet another opportunity for business growth. “Digital sales have been growing rapidly, but it was mainly discretionary items. Due to the restrictions imposed by the virus, however, we’ve become more comfortable ordering essential items online, including groceries.” The opportunities for areas of growth are out there, businesses just have to take the time to try them and see if they have the potential for becoming new revenue streams for their business. Look for new market segments that have not been tried before or try expanding in a sector that might have some promise for greater growth.

Try Different Mixes

The owners of a technology consulting firm walked out the door of their client, which just so happened to represent ninety percent of their revenues. They had been drawn to the client because the client urgently needed their expertise. But instead of hiring more people, the owners decided to handle it themselves. That was a huge mistake when the client was sold as a result of the economy and all of the consulting was terminated. They were immediately faced with having to do something, so they did two things; they promised themselves they would never again have such a huge percentage of their revenue with one client. They also decided they were going to immediately diversify into other, different markets, so as to not be affected by the next economic bump in the road. They continued to diversify and were even more successful as they realized there were many more lucrative opportunities in different markets, they just had to look for them.

Look To The Future

Martinez feels there are not only a lot of changes that have taken place, but more will be continuing to happen well into the future. “We are in the first inning of the baseball game,” he said. Stating that business owners need to rely more heavily on technology in order to obtain sales growth, Martinez said “ They need to embrace the new world, whereas in the past, physical location was key to a retailer’s success, going forward, it will play a less central role as people continue to shop online.”

For your business growth to continue well into the future, technology in some form or another, will probably play a critical role in your company. How you leverage that role to your advantage becomes the key to success. Whether it is through improvements to your internal operations or by expansion in external sales or marketing. Regardless of what you do, take this time of adversity and do whatever you can to convert it to a season of advantage. 

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